The Search for Mythical Prince Diyasena
Posted on March 23rd, 2012

Anil Perera

“A great king named Diyasena will be born in Sri Lanka after a lapse of 2500 years from the birth of Lord Buddha to preserve the culture, country and religion of the country” says a myth believed to have originated in Kotte era.

We Sri Lankans have been hoping to have a “ƒ”¹…”Prince Diyasena’ to guide the country to peace and prosperity. We thought a great leader like Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, Mahathir Mohamed of Malaysia or Park Chung Hee of South Korea would someday come forward to lead our nation out of the abysmal mess we were in.

Some people thought J.R.Jayawardene was that leader. With the crafty brain JRJ was supposed to have, some of his admirers thought that he would be “ƒ”¹…”the leader’ they had been waiting for. JRJ did not live up to the expectations. Despite having unchallenged power and 2/3 majority in Parliament, he put the interests of his party above those of the country. His constitutional changes, particularly the proportional representation system designed to keep UNP in power, continue to haunt us and are largely responsible for the election violence and increased corruption in Sri Lanka. Short-sighted foreign policies led to Indian interference in Sri Lanka, which the subsequent governments have not been able to shake off. JRJ failed the country and the people who trusted him.

Then came a princess – Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. With her charisma and seemingly honest talk, people thought she would be at least honest. Little did they realise that CBK was a habitual liar who could lie without batting an eye lid. She would go down the history as the worst leader we had since independence. She did not do anything for the country and has absolutely no achievements to claim.

Ranil Wickramasinghe was the next hope. Again some people thought that he was the man. He was said to be honest, dedicated and capable. But he too failed to live up to the expectations. His achievements while in power were negligible and despite his “ƒ”¹…”Mr Clean’ image, he failed to prevent his ministers from robbing the country. He proved to be a weak leader.

People did not expect Mahinda Rajapaksa to be a saviour. But he brought peace to the country. He displayed tremendous leadership qualities during the final battle against the LTTE. We thought he would be the man to save Sri Lanka and take it to prosperity. However, even he did not put the country before self. Rather than doing what was best for the country, he did whatever was necessary to keep him in power till death. He did not feel the need to change the proportional representation system, he did not have the will or courage to get rid of politicians like Mervyn Silva and Duminda Silva and he miserably failed to stop rampant corruption and lawlessness in the country. He is no Prince Diyasena.

Sri Lanka will never get a good leader. No leading politician on either side of the political divide has the will, intelligence and the love for the country required of such a leader. Even if there is such a good politician, he would lack the necessary “ƒ”¹…”skills’ and “ƒ”¹…”connections’ to win a presidential election. People deserve their politicians. We cannot expect the people who elect the likes of Mervyn Silva and Duminda Silva with large majorities to vote considering the merits of politicians and their policies.  These cretins would just vote for the parties they have been voting for generations, and the politicians of those parties who have the best financial clout would always win.

We can no longer wait for a “ƒ”¹…”Prince Diyasena’. It is up to the intelligentsia of the country to help guide it in the correct path. Problems in each area need to be identified and possible solutions have to be found. After all, this is not rocket science; other countries have had similar problems and managed to overcome them. We can learn from their experience.

I have always believed that there are significant cultural barriers to the progress of the country. Very few seem to understand them and accept that they are problems. Some others would just brush them aside harping on our glorious past. However, the point to remember is that we are still a poor country and that these problems are not there in developed countries.

These are some areas that need to be addressed:


 Perhaps as a result of our family structure and education system which encourage obedience ahead of independence and creativity, Sri Lankans tend to defer to authority in almost every decision. This has led to a very small minority with leadership skills and a large majority of people who are unable to take even a simple decision. This is obvious in government departments where all matters requiring decisions are pushed up. Leadership training for school children is a must and the school teachers should be re-trained to encourage students to engage in a discussion and actively participate in learning activities. There will be a lot of resistance, but this is a must.

Work ethics

A European living in Sri Lanka once told me that Sri Lankans do not take pride in their work. That statement sums up our attitude to work. Sri Lankans consider work and pay as a right they have. They do not think that they have a responsibility to deliver what is required of them and earn their pay. Most people try to get away with some shoddy work. People who have built houses in Sri Lanka know how difficult it is to get a tiler to do a proper job, a plumber to do a piping system that does not leak or a mason to build a wall that is straight. They simply want to get away with the minimum input and the maximum pay. It is not the lack of skills, but they do not want to put in the effort required or want to improve their skills. They do not take pride in what they do.


Lack of accountability is a major issue in Sri Lanka. People do not want to take responsibility for their actions. Look at the blunders some politicians and senior government servants make. In another country they would have resigned immediately, but not in Sri Lanka. They would carry on as if they were not aware of what happened. Recent cases involving Ceylon Petroleum Corporation are examples of this. No one took responsibility and no one was punished although a massive amount of money was wasted.

In every area of government there is a lot of room for improvement. The tragedy is that no one, including politicians and senior government servants, wants to do anything to change the status quo. They just want to carry on with ancient and inefficient way of doing things.

It is high time for the intelligent, educated people of Sri Lanka to come forward to help guide the country in the right direction. The politicians are not going to do that. It is up to the people with some intelligence to do whatever possible to help the country. Otherwise we will end up as a failed country not too far in the future.

5 Responses to “The Search for Mythical Prince Diyasena”

  1. Dham Says:

    “Sri Lanka will never get a good leader. ”
    Why so negative my friend? Banda,JR, Premadas,Mahinda all strong leaders, stronger than LKY.
    But the answer lies within us, within our Buddhist culture. Greed overcame all our leaders. Banda did not live long enough to comment. But, unlike Singapore, it is not easy to survive with rogue uncivilized bully India so close to us. Malaysia, Indonesia which surround Singapore are ex-Buddhist countries with similar culture to Sri lanka. No cast problems, no ahitting on streets no dirty tricks.
    We do have Mahinda, Gota who will fix this – we should hope.

  2. herman Says:

    Sir Lankans deserve these “leaders” cos most voted w/o wisdom. Most of these so called Buddhist are only for name sake purpose and unless we abide by the Noble teachings no Leader can lead.

    Dham, the chinese in singapore and malaysia are not one united people but are divided by dialects and they too have issues with class instead of caste. The same with the malays in indonesia and malaysia, they too are divided by more caste than all the sinhala caste put togethter! The difference is that in malaysia and singapore they have excellant leaders and indonesia had very strong dictator untill very recently. The main issue is that a leader must be upright, honest and be dedicated to its people. Mahinda had some of these qualities but after winning the war, his head had swollen and need to see a “shrink” before either he regains his leadership or losses his grip!

  3. Ratanapala Says:

    Mahinda must take example from other leaders who lost their position in history. They lost because they stayed too long in power, because they gave into the wishes of their wives, sons and daughters, kith and kin. He has many from whom he can learn from. Marcos, Suharto, Hosni Mubarak and Gadaffi all lost their position in history due to unmitigated greed and corruption brought about by their families. It is up to President Mahinda to know whether it is worth the effort to enrich the kith and kin or to go down in history as a heroic leader that saved the nation from world’s deadliest terrorist organization. We wish him well. If he doesn’t make the mark it is his own folly.

    The Christian Church campaigned against him on his election as president the first time. We now see their work in the UNHRC a few days ago; all Catholic countries except for the Philippines voted in unison against Buddhist Sri Lanka in support of the Catholic LTTE. He must choose his friends carefully. He must not abdicate his responsibility for the Buddhist Nation that elected him, that won the war for him and are even now ready to stand with him and be counted. It would be foolish to give up his position in history.

  4. no_catch Says:

    I think the leadership issue is an universal issue currently. Similar to GFC, lack of patriotic leadership must be an unexpected outcome of democratic political system. I guess, we can learn from individual outcomes of some other countries but what country are you suggesting we can learn from as a whole or follow?

    Yes, definitely intelligentsia of the country should contribute more to the betterment of the country but, I guess there has to be a leader. I’m curious to understand what would drive this leader to be patriotic (throughout his leadership) in current environment?

  5. Dham Says:

    I don’t think his head is swollen. I agree with you on qualities of a good leader. Mahinda – Gota team is the one.
    But I am extremly dissapointed that he did not take effort to reduce Indian profits and to reduce corruption.
    H edoen’t have a plan. Today he says no 13A , tomorrow 13 plus. Silvas all over him.
    Why he cannot shut Mervyn ?
    Why cannot stop police from taking bribes daily on all major roads ?
    Why he could not bring a change to politics ? Why this nonsence of daily elections and two hundred ministers ?
    That is the problem.
    Unless he wakes up we are doomed. But I am hopeful.

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